Leveling Up, One Level Down

Giving an Antiquated Basement a Magnificent (Locally-born) Makeover

Article by Elizabeth A. Lowry

Photography by Matthew J Capps Business Image Services

Originally published in Loveland Lifestyle

You know the old saying ... the one about how it takes a village to remodel a house? If you think that’s too far a stretch for that analogy, you could be right—but not in this case. And it’s just what kept popping into my head every time I thought about Loveland realtor Ellie Kowalchik and the remodel of her home’s basement.

Because, you see, elevating the 2,400-square-foot space from gaudy to gorgeous took a crack team of tried-and-true contractors, builders and creators to move walls, remodel rooms and design the space down to a tee ... turning every room functional, spacious and, of course, aesthetically pleasing, too. 

This undertaking wasn’t for beginners (or the faint of heart). Luckily for Ellie, team leader and seasoned realtor at the Move2Loveland | Keller Williams Pinnacle Group, she’s no newbie—having already remodeled two basements in her other Loveland homes prior to tackling her own. Also luckily for Ellie, she had her own team of trusted contractors in place—transformation experts she’s used over the years and who she knew could pull off her plan.  

If You Remodel It, They Will Come 

The Kowalchiks moved into their home in June of 2015, knowing they’d make lots of immediate cosmetic changes to the house, particularly when it came to the loads of wallpaper and paint colors that were not at all their style. 

“But the five-acre private parcel, tucked away in a popular subdivision with a barn for my horses, was an immediate draw,” Ellie says. 

As these things tend to go, the basement remodel took longer to get started than expected. However, the onset of the pandemic quarantine in the spring of 2020 provided the perfect opportunity to start tackling it.

“We had developed some pretty specific ideas of what we wanted to do,” Ellie says. “But I did enlist help from interior decorator, Bonnie Albers, to bring our vision to life.”

The vision consisted of a more casual, rustic and comfortable look, Ellie explained. To achieve this, they first spent a lot of time designing the bar area and the cabinetry layout, moving one door opening and eliminating another to allow for more cabinetry. Then, once that was complete, they moved on to the flooring—removing the carpeting and replacing it with a luxury vinyl plank, chosen for its durability and look. 

In addition, the couple opened up the staircase and added barn doors, closing off the hallway to the guest suite to allow for more privacy for visitors.  

Brick-by-Brick Bar

Initially, the bar space was boring and ordinary—a white kitchen with green Formica countertops. The Kowalchiks transformed the space to resemble an exposed brick bar like one you might see in a chic historic building. To create this look, Ellie says she “took inspiration from the existing fireplace and replicated the curved brick into arches over the bar, then added brick to the columns, too.”

Endless Exercise 

Combining two rooms (and eliminating some ugly red and green carpeting) was key to creating the perfect workout space with plenty of room to move around. “We used an engineer to plan for the removal of a wall,” Ellie explains. “There was a larger ‘pool table room’ and then a much smaller room. Neither of the two rooms would have been ideal for the exercise room ... we had lots of equipment and wanted to add a sauna as well.”

Gather Round

Although the fireplace stayed largely as-is (swapping out the old white mantel for one more rustic, made from, reclaimed barn wood), the space surrounding it changed significantly, with the addition of new flooring, updating the columns from white to brick, and the aforementioned barn doors to close off areas for more privacy. The room now has better flow and is more welcoming as a gathering space.

Lovin’ on the Locals  

Ellie says she routinely recommends contractors to her clients, but only after having vetted them herself first. Below are a few of her regular local contractors with whom she has not only enjoyed long business relationships, but who also worked to turn her basement dream into a reality. 

1. Ellie has worked with general contractor Garrett Hayes for more than a decade, helping her and her clients with various remodeling jobs. For the basement, Garrett did all the demo, the cabinetry/barn doors installation, and all of the framing around the bar for the brick work.

2. Bonnie Albers, owner of Bonnie Albers Interiors, previously worked with Ellie on her own office space, as well as other various projects for herself and clients over the past eight years.

3. Ellie has been turning to Jo Potvin, owner of home staging company Design to Market, for the perfect placement of furniture and decor for herself and her clients for more than a decade as well.

4. Another trusted contractor, John Hill of John Hill Construction, sourced the barn beam for Ellie’s stunning fireplace mantle.  

5. Carpet Depot can lay claim to the last piece of this basement puzzle, working with Ellie to install rubber flooring in her exercise room. 

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